Brian Mitchell and his wife, Karen, were completely burnt out in the Mallacoota fires.
The Mitchells have lived in the coastal town for 27 years.
The couple spent 20 years in their beautiful home before it was engulfed in flames during the Black Summer bushfires that raged through East Gippsland for many weeks.
The couple considers themselves lucky in that they were offered to rent a three-bedroom house next door to the charred remains of their own home.
“The owners were turning it into an Airbnb but after the fires they offered it to us, so it worked out pretty well,” Mr Mitchell told the Snowy River Mail.
Mr Mitchell then set about organising for his house to be rebuilt but soon discovered there was a shortage of builders in Mallacoota.
“I couldn’t get anyone to make a start until 2021, they were all busy,” he said.
Undeterred, Mr Mitchell decided to become an owner builder and enrolled in TAFE to get a white card. “It was a mammoth task but I didn’t have much choice,” he said. While he had previously built homes before as an owner builder, Mr Mitchell said the guidelines are more stringent and “it was quite a challenge”.
He described adjusting to losing their previous home and trying to move on with their lives as “interesting”.
“I’ll go to the shed to get a hammer and nail and then realise I don’t have a hammer and nails anymore, I lost all my tools in the fire,” he said.
“My wife will go into the kitchen and open a drawer before also realising what she’s looking for isn’t there.”
Like many bushfire victims, the couple lost a lot of memorabilia, like treasured photos and mementos, when their house went up.
“It’s all gone and can never be replaced, it’s difficult,” Mr Mitchell said.
“A lot of people say to us, we understand how you feel, but actually they have no idea unless they’ve been through it, things will never be the same.”
Originally from the United Kingdom, the Mitchells have been in Australia for 40 years.
“I have a fair idea about building, so I’m doing the tiling and bits of pieces on the house,” Mr Mitchell, a plumber by trade, said.
Mrs Mitchell has MS (multiple sclerosis) so Mr Mitchell is building their new home “a little bit bigger with ramps and so on”.
“We’ve just had the kitchen done so we should be finished around the middle to end of January,” Mr Mitchell said.
“It will be at lock-up stage by Christmas.”
Mr Mitchell started the build in July and said his insurance company, Westpac Bank, was very quick to finalise the payout.
The Mitchells at one stage contemplated moving away from their burnt rubble but put that plan to bed when they realised the availability of properties in the area was scarce.
As he surveyed his new home, Mr Mitchell looked satisfied.
“The people in Mallacoota have been superb,” he said.
“They have really supported me and I can’t thank them enough.”
The Snowy River Mail has been told about five homes are nearing completion, or are well underway, out of the more than 120 that were destroyed in the Mallacoota district.
More than 100 planning applications have been received with 87 approved to date.
Mallacoota owner builder, Brian Mitchell, outside his almost completed new home last week. Mr Mitchell and his wife lost everything in last summer’s bushfires. K476-8317